An internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) memo obtained by the Huffington Post reveals that agency talking points on climate change seek to cast doubt on the scientific consensus about climate change and mankind’s role in the crisis.
The talking points include statements like “human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner” and “clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it”. This directly contradicts the most recent federal climate assessment, which found that “it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
The memo was sent by Joel Scheraga, senior advisor for climate adaptation in the agency’s Office of Policy. Scheraga is a career employee who worked at the agency during the Obama administration. In the memo, Scheraga explains that several EPA employees have suggested that “it would be helpful to develop consistent messages about EPA’s climate adaptation efforts.”
The messaging breaks from the scientific consensus on climate change by claiming that “the degree and extent” of mankind’s impact on climate change “are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” Instead, 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the climate-warming trends observed over the past century “are extremely likely due to human activities.”
While the messaging breaks from mainstream scientific consensus, it reflects EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s own history of climate misinformation.
Pruitt has repeatedly said that the role of human activity in climate change is the subject of ongoing debate, and has questioned whether carbon dioxide emissions are the cause of global warming. Pruitt was also personally involved in erasing climate science information from the EPA’s website, and has floated the idea of holding a public debate on climate science.
A recent Gallup poll found that public understanding of the scientific consensus on climate change has fallen in the past year among Independents and Republicans, potentially a sign that the Trump administration’s misleading rhetoric is having an impact on voters.
Between 2017 and 2018, the share of voters who say that most scientists believe global warming is occurring fell 11 points among Republican voters and 6 points among independent voters.